Q&A with French Designer Vanessa Bruno

Q&A with French Designer Vanessa Bruno

The French department store Galeries Lafayette is living up to its name. For its second annual "Paris & Création" event, this temple of French fashion is turning eight sections of its building on Boulevard Haussmann into  contemporary art galleries. For the occasion, they asked fashion designer Vanessa Bruno to organize an exhibition. Given carte blanche by the department store, Bruno let her imagination run wild. The designer spoke to ARTINFO France about this new experience, the women who inspire her, and the joys of urban bicycle riding.

How do you see your exhibition?

It’s a poetic arrangement of my work on the image over the years. It functions a bit like a collage of photos and videos. It’s also quite fun.

Could it be compared to a journey?

The idea is to embed ones life in a visual universe. All the photos, in fact, have been part of a journey. There are photos of women dancing naked on the shore, and photos taken in the desert. In my catalogs, travel is important, as a way to reach other worlds, to escape.

The installation that re-creates a bicycle ride through Paris is alsoa journey, a more personal one.

On a bike you feel real freedom, you’re not in the midst of aggression or pressure. Your eyes can wander and take the time to peek behind an open door. You’re more connected to the city.

Some of the videos are rather inaccessible.

They are part dream, part secret, and at the same time they are very true, very close to us.

Your muses are Lou Doillon, Joanna Preiss, and Hélène Fillières. What does the Vanessa Bruno woman look like?

For me, fairy tales are important. The women are all a bit fairy- or princess-like, with perhaps a pagan side, connected to nature and the beyond, even while they remain in real life. It is important that these young women represent something extremely natural, even while they remain quite sophisticated. They have the presence of women who are happy with themselves.

The exhibition includes photos by Mark Borthwick and videos by Stéphanie Di Giusto, two artists with whom you've worked in the past.

I worked with Mark Borthwick for eight years. We did 10 or so catalogs together. They are like precious little books that you want to keep. Even if they have to represent the brand, they must also be thoroughly modern. It’s great when you can look at something that you liked 10 years ago and that you’ll still like in 10 more years. When I work on a collection, I need to sublimate the Woman, to find an icon, to tell a story about all this. The catalog is an extension. I get involved in the creative direction of the project. For two years, my film work with Stéphanie Di Giusto has allowed the collection to be made physical in a more tangible way. We write the screenplay together and we try to create visual and emotional poetry.

Stéphanie Di Giusto’s films can be reminiscent of Garrel or Cocteau. What is the influence of film on your designs?

Sometimes, I watch all the films of a certain director — Orson Welles, for example. Recently I saw all of Catherine Deneuves movies. But when I get down to work, I remove myself from all that. The idea is to create an image. When Stéphanie and I work on the films, we don’t talk about our influences. For me, a good collection gives you the feeling that it is part of the collective unconscious. It reminds you of something that you then appropriate for yourself.

Some clothing prototypes are hung from the wall like individual works of art.

I wanted to make visible all the manual labor and the craft that are also part of our profession. I like people to feel the "made by hand" quality that can be part of high fashion.

What lesser-known aspects of your work would you like the exhibition to reveal?

What made me happy was to see continuity between images from 2001 and images from today. I found the codes that I always use. That’s what I like to do, I like the idea of designing clothes that will be icons, that one can continue to wear for a long time and that won’t become unfashionable.

What will you do next?

I'm opening a store in Los Angeles in early August and another one in London at the end of September. There is also work to be done on the next collection, with a fashion show in October.